Napa Wine Producers We Love
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Napa Wine Producers A-F
This historic winery produces one of California’s iconic Cabernet Sauvignons, Georges de Latour Private Reserve. One of California’s largest-volume producers, Beaulieu is again among the greats, thanks to winemaker Jeffrey Stambor’s renewed focus on quality. Beaulieu’s Reserve line and Appellation-tier bottlings offer good quality at reasonable prices.
Founded in 1876, Beringer is the oldest continuously operating winery in Napa Valley. Today’s Beringer wines owe much to the 25-year tenure of winemaker Ed Sbragia. Protégé Laurie Hook now oversees the portfolio, which delivers quality across a broad spectrum, from blush wine to the storied Beringer Private Reserve.
Jack Cakebread launched his winery with the release of a 1973 Napa Valley Chardonnay. The runaway success of that ripe, full-bodied wine fueled Cakebread’s growth. Today 450 acres of estate vineyards contribute to a broad range of reds and whites, and though Chardonnay remains a star, winemaker Julianne Laks also has a deft hand with Cabernet and red blends.
Caymus’s flagship wine, a Napa Valley Cabernet called Special Selection that was first produced in 1975, was one of the first cult California Cabs; it remains among the country’s benchmark reds, along with Caymus’s other Napa Valley Cabernet offering. Chuck Wagner, son of the founders, directs this Rutherford winery, which continues to concentrate on Cabernet Sauvignon.
Chappellet Vineyard & Winery
Founded by Donn and Molly Chappellet in 1967, this winery was one of the first to focus on Napa Valley’s mountain terrain. Grapes come mainly from 100 acres of vines on Pritchard Hill. The cellar-worthy Napa Valley Pritchard Hill bottling is a star; the Chardonnay and Mountain Cuvée red are also highlights.
Chateau Montelena Winery
Chateau Montelena vaulted to stardom when its 1973 Napa Valley Chardonnay famously bested prestigious white Burgundies in a 1976 tasting in Paris. It was only the second vintage for the historic Calistoga estate, which had been bought and rehabilitated by Jim Barrett. Son and winemaker Bo Barrett, who is at the helm today, displays a similarly delicate hand with oak.
Cliff Lede Vineyards
Canadian Cliff Lede’s high-end winery has been getting a lot of attention ever since it was established in Napa’s Stags Leap District in 2002. Lede enlisted French winemaker Philippe Melka and equally renowned viticulturalist David Abreu for his all-star team. Together they produce a lively, delicious Sauvignon Blanc and a range of ambitious Cabernet Sauvignons.
Tim Mondavi, who directed winemaking for his family’s legendary Napa Valley winery until its sale, works today with his sister Marcia to oversee Continuum, a superpremium project consisting of a single Cabernet-based red. Grapes come mainly from a prized estate vineyard high on Napa’s Pritchard Hill.
Cuvaison Estate Wines
This eco-friendly, family-owned winery is justly famous for its terrific Chardonnay, sourced from estate vineyards on the Napa side of the Carneros region. Winemaker Steven Rogstad works in a solar-powered facility built in the middle of the vineyard; a Mount Veeder vineyard provides fruit for two Cabernets.
Rich, layered Napa Valley Merlot and Cabernet are the best-known wines from this estate, established by Dan and Margaret Duckhorn in 1976. Spin-off brands such as Goldeneye and Migration offer Pinot Noir at lower prices. Paraduxx concentrates on unique red blends; affordable varietal wines go by Decoy.
Tony Soter founded Etude with the aim of making great Pinot Noir; he planted eight different clones and eight low-yielding heirloom varieties at this Carneros estate. Now owned by Treasury Wine Estates, Etude is still known as a Pinot Noir powerhouse, though its Cabernets and whites are sought after as well.
The late Gil Nickel and his wife, Beth, bought this run-down pre-Prohibition winery in 1979 and beautifully restored it. Lavish gardens and vintage cars offer pleasant distractions, but the wines are the real draw. Far Niente’s Chardonnay and Cabernet earn high marks—and command high prices—every vintage.
At this popular Napa winery, Janet Myers is the latest in a line of well-known winemakers, following Chilean vintner Agustin Huneeus, Justin Meyer and, most recently, Greg Upton. A quartet of mid-priced Napa Valley bottlings offer reliable quality, and the Sauvignon Blanc is excellent. The premium offerings, including the red Bordeaux-variety blend Magnificat and the Cuvée Sauvage Chardonnay, can dazzle.
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Dedicated to crafting top-notch Napa Valley Cabernet, Kathryn and Craig Hall purchased the acclaimed Sacrashe vineyard in the hills of Rutherford in 1995. Under winemaker Steve Leveque, the winery excels with Bordeaux varieties, including a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, the iconic flagship Kathryn Hall Cabernet and a bounty of collectible wines called the Artisan series.
The Hess Collection
Switzerland’s Hess family has been in the beverage business since 1844, starting with beer. Donald Hess added bottled water and finally wine to the lineup, purchasing vineyards on Napa’s Mount Veeder in 1978. The three wine tiers include the Hess Collection, sourced from Mount Veeder, followed by the midrange Napa Series and the entry-level Hess Select line.
Honig Vineyard & Winery
In 1964, Louis Honig bought a 68-acre ranch in Napa Valley and planted grapes. He never made wine, but future generations started to. As Michael Honig, Louis’s grandson, took control of the winery in the ’80s, the crisp Sauvignon Blanc made the brand a favorite—but the Cabernet is arguably even better.
Hundred Acre Winery/Layer Cake Wines
Jayson Woodbridge’s fearless confidence made him a successful investment banker; it’s also what allowed him to plunge into the high-end wine business in 2000 with zero experience. Woodbridge’s Hundred Acre reds—three Napa Valley Cabernets and a Barossa Shiraz—are hard-to-find and expensive cult classics. His Layer Cake wines are compelling and wonderfully low-priced.
Inglenook/Francis Ford Coppola Winery
These wineries have little in common except their owner, film director Francis Ford Coppola. Napa’s Inglenook (until 2011 called Rubicon Estate) represents the rebirth of a historic winery, newly invigorated by the arrival of ex–Château Margaux winemaker Philippe Bascaules. Sonoma’s Francis Ford Coppola Winery offers affordable wines sourced from the valley’s diverse subzones and beyond.
Joseph Phelps Vineyards
Joe Phelps’s Insignia red, first produced in 1974, helped bring Bordeaux-style blends to prominence in California and remains a standard-bearer for the entire state. Helmed today by son Bill Phelps and winemakers Damian Parker and Ashley Hepworth, the winery remains focused on Bordeaux varieties and Syrah.
Louis M. Martini Winery
Founded in 1933, this Cabernet-focused Napa winery was purchased by Gallo in 2002, but the company left Michael Martini in charge of winemaking. Thanks to his talent and Gallo’s deep pockets, quality continues to improve and the top wines—such as the Lot No. 1 and Monte Rosso Cabernets—are world-class.
Located in a 1930s building along a narrow stretch of Napa Valley’s famed Highway 29, this lauded winery has been owned since the mid-’90s by the Schlatter family. Merryvale’s affordable Starmont label became so successful that it’s now its own brand, produced at a newish facility in Carneros; the winery’s prestigious Profile bottling sits at the top of the portfolio.
Pine Ridge Vineyards
Founded in 1978 in Napa’s Stags Leap District, Pine Ridge is best known for elegant Cabernet-based reds from prized estate vineyards. The winery also has carved out a surprising niche with a tasty Chenin Blanc–Viognier blend, made with grapes from Lodi and the under-the-radar Clarksburg district.
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Founded in 1970 by one of California’s pioneering wine families, this midsize Napa estate has offered solid, reasonably priced wines for years. In 2009, Boisset Family Estates purchased the winery, bringing famous French consultant Philippe Melka and winemaker Stephanie Putnam on board—which means newly invigorated and ambitious wines are no doubt on the way.
Robert Biale Vineyards
Pietro Biale started growing grapes in Napa Valley back in the 1930s, but it was son Aldo and grandson Bob who began bottling wines under the family name 60 years later. The winery specializes in hearty, dense single-vineyard Zinfandels and Petite Sirahs from some of Napa’s oldest vineyards.
Robert Craig Winery
Robert Craig built his eponymous winery and one of his estate vineyards at the end of a winding, rugged road nearly 2,300 feet up Napa Valley’s Howell Mountain. It’s a perch that suits Craig well, given his passion for mountain-grown grapes. Craig makes a quartet of always excellent, firmly structured Cabernets, along with small amounts of Chardonnay, Zinfandel and a Cab blend.
Robert Mondavi Winery
After a series of shake-ups in the mid-2000s, Robert Mondavi’s industry-transforming winery found stable footing under current owner Constellation Wines. The winery’s talented winemaker, Genevieve Janssens, continues the brand’s tradition of greatness with high-end cuvées such as the Reserve Cabernet.
Rombauer’s decadent Chardonnay became one of the best-known examples of the buttery, oaky style that defined California Chardonnay in the 1990s. Today this family-run estate—founded in St. Helena in 1982 by Koerner and Joan Rombauer—enjoys a loyal following. The wines, including the Napa Valley Merlot and Cabernet, are consistently well made.
Soon after it was created by David Graves and Dick Ward in 1981, Saintsbury helped prove that Carneros, with its warm afternoons and cool breezes, was ideal territory for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Recent vintages have shown new finesse under winemaker Jerome Chery, an alum of cult producer Littorai.
Shafer’s bold, beautifully made wines enjoy almost universal acclaim. Chalk that up to the estate’s prime vineyard locations (which include 79 acres in Napa’s Stags Leap District) and the steady hand of intensely focused winemaker Elias Fernandez. The Hillside Select Cabernet is an ageworthy classic, and the One Point Five is a delicious (relative) value.
Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery
This charity-minded Napa Valley winery, owned by Mary Novak, donates 1 percent of its profit to environmental nonprofits. But there’s another reason to buy its wines: Winemaker Jennifer Williams, with consultation from Rosemary Cakebread, produces superb Cabernet (from organic grapes) and a deliciously fresh Sauvignon Blanc, among other wines.
St. Clement Vineyards
Up-and-coming winemaker Danielle Cyrot took the helm at St. Clement Vineyards in 2005, fresh from a position at Napa’s Stags’ Leap Winery. She inherited a Cabernet-dominated portfolio that relies on strong relationships with top growers for most of its Napa fruit. Four single-vineyard Cabs top the portfolio, but don’t overlook the Sauvignon Blanc.
St. Supéry Vineyards & Winery
Owned by the Skallis, a winemaking family in southern France, St. Supéry is famous for its excellent Sauvignon Blancs, which are among Napa’s raciest. But its higher-end wines are worth exploring too, especially the Virtú and élu red and white bottlings and the substantial Dollarhide Cabernet Sauvignon.
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars
Warren Winiarski’s legendary Napa estate vaulted to stardom when its Cabernet triumphed over marquee Bordeaux names at a famous Paris tasting in 1976. Winiarski sold the winery to Chateau Ste. Michelle and Tuscan vintner Piero Antinori in 2007, but skilled winemaker Nicki Pruss has stayed on. The Sauvignon Blanc is made in a distinctly Bordelais style, and the estate’s Cabernets and Chardonnay are always great.
Offering panoramic views of Napa Valley, Sterling is a stunning winery to visit. New winemaking facilities have reinvigorated Sterling’s reserve wines, particularly the SVR Bordeaux-style blend, a structured red made for the long haul. For great value look to the Vintner’s Collection and the Napa Appellation tier.
Trinchero Napa Valley
Bob Trinchero started the blush-wine megatrend of the 1980s by inventing White Zinfandel for his family’s Sutter Home brand. The Trincheros later bought prime Napa vineyards and hired Mario Monticelli to craft wines under the Trinchero label, which gets deserved attention for well-made reds and whites.